Drama Critical Essay Practice

Drama Critical Essay Practice


Choose a play in which a power struggle is central to the action. Explain briefly the circumstances of the power struggle and discuss the extent to which it contributes to your appreciation of theme and/or character in the play as a whole.

Choose a play in which a power struggle is central to the action.

First of all, check the first sentence. Does the play fit? In this case, obviously YES!

Explain briefly the circumstances of the power struggle...’

This means that the essay is going to have to make clear who is involved in the power struggle and what it is for, BRIEFLY. That’s an important word. Don’t spend a lot of your essay telling the story. Keep it brief. Explaining the circumstances can be done either in the summary or in each PEE paragraph (looking at Technique Effect and Analysis).

and discuss the extent to which it contributes to your appreciation of theme and/or character in the play as a whole.’

The essay will have to explain how the struggle for power helps us understand a theme and/or a character.

This essay will use the theme of jealousy AND the character Iago. It will DISCUSS:

  • the circumstance of the power struggle (some of it will be explained in the summary)
  • how the evidence of the power struggle helps us understand the character
  • how the evidence of the power struggle helps us understand a main theme

The following essay would achieve a mark in the 14-17 category.


A character who suffers from jealousy is Iago in William Shakespeare’s ‘Othello’. Jealousy is a terrible thing. It can make people do terrible things. This essay will explain the power struggle between Iago and others, and how it helps the reader understand the theme of jealousy and Iago himself.Othello is a general of the Venetian forces. He has promoted Cassio and not Iago. Iago cannot bear this and so he decides to destroy Cassio and then Othello. He hopes to become second-in-command, possibly more, and he also hopes to pay Othello back for an affairhe suspects Othello has had with his wife. Iago creates suspicion in Othello’s mind about his new wife, Desdemona. He drops hints and creates situations which make it look like Cassio is having an affair with Desdemona.

Iago’s power struggle helps us to understand jealousy and his own character. When Iago is discussing with Roderigo his hatred of Othello, he gives his reasons:

“Iago:...I know my price, I am worth no worse a place:

But he, as loving his own pride and purposes,”

Iago’s struggle for power is a struggle for position. He wants to be second-in-command because he feels he deserves it. He feels he has the qualities for Cassio’s position and also considers Cassio’s position to be an insult given that Cassio has so little experience. Iago thinks Othello has put his own pride before what he feels he deserves. This helps us understand jealousy as something that wants what others have and it can be based on personal self-esteem - a sense that you deserve something even though it is someone else’s decision. We see Iago is a proud and confident person and very aware of social status.

The struggle for power that Iago starts makes the reader appreciate jealousy and Iago’s own personality. Iago tells Roderigo what type of servant he will be to Othello:

“Iago: ...Keep yet their hearts attending on themselves;

And, throwing but shows of service on their lords, Do well thrive by them, and when they havelin’d their coats,”

Iago’s power struggle is for himself to be rewarded. He will only serve Othello to serve himself. We can see that jealousy is an emotion that is kept secret. Iago will not tell people of resentment towards Othello and Cassio, but will keep it hidden and play a loyal servant. We learn that jealousy is usually an emotion that self-centred people feel. It is Iago’s focusing on himself that makes him jealous. Iago is portrayed as a selfish, disloyal person who desires material wealth and is not much bothered about having to lie to get it.

As Iago struggles for power, we are led to understand the theme of jealousy and Iago’s personality. Iago also wants revenge for Othello, possibly, sleeping with his wife:

“Iago:Till I am even’d with him, wife for wife,

Or failing so, yet that I put the Moor At least into a jealousy so strong”

Iago’s struggle for status and power is mixed in with personal reasons. It shows that jealousy is often used by people who themselves suffer from jealousy. We do not know if Emilia, Iago’s wife, has had an affair with Othello. Iago admits himself that he only suspects it. This shows Iago as a character who can be deeplysuspicious and jealous himself. It suggests that some of Iago’s reasons for destroying Othello may be caused by himself.The theme of jealousy and Iago’s character are developed as he struggles for power. Iago swears with Othello that he will kill Cassio and Othello will kill Desdemona:

“Othello:...Within these three days let me hear thee say

That Cassio’s not alive.

Iago:My friend is dead; ‘tis done at your request:

But let her live.”

Iago has achieved his promotion if Cassio dies. He has Othello’s permission to do it, too. Jealousy and desire for power can make people kill. Jealousy is an extremely powerful emotion. Iago is seen as a person capable of murdering a person with whom he is friends or, at least, pretends to be. Iago shows cunning by asking that Desdemona live, but he does not try very hard to persuade Othello not to kill her. He still pretends he is an honest and good man to Othello. Iago’sjealousy is capable of killing two people and of destroying a third. We see jealousy’s destructiveness and the cunning deceitfulness of Iago’s personality.

This essay has shown how a struggle for power helps the reader appreciate the theme of jealousy and understand the personality of Iago. The essay has shown how jealousy can be created bydesire for recognition. Iago’s personality is corrupted with jealousy. Shakespeare shows us jealousy at its most dangerous.

Why did we place this essay in the 14 to 17 category?

  1. it has a clear structure and is always on task
  2. it shows some thought in the introduction and conclusion
  3. the evidence is substantial and relevant
  4. there is some insight in the analysis about the theme and character

Why did we not place this essay in the 18 to 20 category?

  1. the introduction and conclusion do not show much depth
  2. the writing is repetitive and limited most of the time
  3. very few of the insights in the analysis are developed beyond single points
  4. no personal or background knowledge is brought to the analysis
  5. it does everything well, but lacks flair in all areas